Updated June 9th, 2019.
One of the main reasons that people visit the City of Arequipa is to take a trip to the nearby Colca Canyon – the second deepest canyon in the world, at a whopping 4,160 metres deep! Surpassed only by Cotahuasi, also in Peru, the Colca Canyon is a must see during your time in Peru, famous for epic views, great hiking, Condor spotting and hot springs!
How to visit the Colca Canyon?
The most popular way to visit Colca Canyon is on a full day tour or a 2-3 day hike, which many travellers organise from Arequipa. The tours include transport, accommodation, food and a guide and are very good value for money starting at just $25 US for a full day tour or $40 US for a 2-day trek. You can read more about Colca Canyon Tours here.
However, if you’re not a fan of organised day tours and you prefer to travel independently without a tour guide and a group of tourists, then here’s a nice and easy way for you to travel from Arequipa to Colca Canyon via the lovely town of Chivay!
How to Visit the Colca Canyon from Arequipa Without a Tour
Step 1: Getting to Chivay from Arequipa
It’s actually relatively easy to get yourself from Arequipa to the town of Chivay in the Colca Valley, near the start of the Colca Canyon. There are a number of local bus companies offering transport to Chivay and any travel agent can book them for you. We used Arequipa Tours, paid only 15 soles ($5 US) and actually felt like the minibus was going to stay firmly connected to the road!
Not only that, but you can leave at pretty much any time of day you like, not just at 3am – which is the ridiculous hour that most of the day tours depart for the Colca Canyon! You also have that nice warm feeling inside that comes only from being on a bus surrounded by local folks, which makes our journeys more authentic, right?!
Step 2: Arriving in Chivay
Once you arrive in Chivay, rather than being chauffeured directly to a hostel by your tour guide, you are faced with an important decision of where to stay? It turns out that there are plenty of options in Chivay and you can walk to the main plaza from the bus station, or take a moto-taxi / rickshaw to get around which is pretty cheap.
Step 3: Getting a Moto-Taxi to Yanque
From Chivay, we actually opted for the smaller and more picturesque town of Yanque, which just a few minutes’ drive from Chivay. You can get a moto-taxi from Chivay to Yanque very easily or a rickshaw which is quite a novelty way to travel!
Once you arrive in the village of Yanque, you’ll discover that there is no shortage of choices of accommodation, from clean and comfortable budget hostels, to super-luxury hotel resorts with underfloor heating and a buffet breakfast!
Step 4: Where to Stay in Yanque
In Yanque, there are many options of where to stay, If you’re looking for a cheap budget option, choose Sumaq Wayra, a lovely little bed and breakfast that’s set on a cute little street in the heart of Yanque. For budget travellers there’s also El Tambo Hostal. Located just away from Yanque’s main plaza, the plain and unassuming exterior of this hostel hides a beautifully crafted garden with traditional whitewashed buildings, overlooked only by the surrounding mountains. It’s good value for money.
If you really want to treat yourself, check out Colca Lodge Spa and Hot Springs. Choose this place if you fancy a break from hostels and are in need of some super rejuvenation! This high class eco-lodge has everything you would expect from a 5-star hotel, with the addition of mountain views, natural volcanic hot springs and even its own Alpaca farm! Room per night with buffet breakfast costs $160 to $230 – we know it’s a splurge, but well worth it!
Step 5: Explore Chivay, Peru! – Things to do in Chivay & Yanque
Relax in Los Tambos – The Colca Canyon Hot Springs
If you opt for basic backpacker accommodation, don’t worry, there’s still a special place for you to relax in a natural hot spring in the Colca Canyon! Los Tambos Hot Springs is actually just around the corner from Colca Lodge and you can walk there from Yanque in just 15 minutes.
Just make your way over the traditional rope bridge to soothe your aching muscles and soak up the minerals in 35-40°C water, all whilst taking in the breath-taking mountain scenery. (Price – 15 Soles for the hot springs and only 5 Soles if you just want to cross the bridge for the view.)
Take the Chacapi to Yanque Trek
If you don’t feel like going straight back to hostel for a nap after the hot springs, this gentle 4.5km trek will give you a much more scenic route back into town. (Price – Nothing!)
Traditional Dancing in Yanque
Wake up early to see a daily display of traditional Peruvian dance around the main square. (Price – Nothing! Unless you feel like tipping the dancers at the end. There are a lot of them though!)
Zip Lining in Colca Canyon
Colca Zip Lining offers high speed, heights and amazing instruction and guidance from David and Luis. Choose one or more lines to fly across the valley, or conquer them all for the chance to scale the high cliffs and take on The Monster – a 500 metre rush of air and adrenaline from one side of the valley to the other. If you’re lucky, they might even let you spin upside down on the final run! (Price – Approx $50 US for the whole course, which takes at least 2 hours! To get there it costs just 1 Sole p/p in a shared taxi from Chivay Plaza.)
Step 6: Chivay to Colca Canyon!
Up until now you will have avoided paying the 70 Soles Entrance Fee to enter Colca Canyon itself, but if you planning on trekking down to the Oasis Sangalle (the beautiful luscious green bit at the bottom of the canyon) then it’s well worth it! It is super easy to arrange a Colca Canyon Tour from Chivay for a very cheap price!
The Colca Canyon/Oasis Sangalle trek is the most common trek amongst tourists, but if you’re looking for something a little different, away from the beaten path, then ask Gloria at Arequipa Tour about some of their ‘special routes’ that will take you further into the mountain wilderness. (Just say South America Backpacker sent you – wink wink).
Further Reading: Also, check out our guide to the Colca Canyon, Peru.